The department of employment and labour has placed the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) commissioner Teboho Maruping and the unit’s entire management on precautionary suspension following the Auditor-General’s findings of illegal payments and oversight glitches in the payments of the Covid-19 Temporary Employee Relief Scheme Benefits.
Addressing the media on Wednesday following Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu’s update on the multibillion-rand Covid-19 relief package audit report, Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi said he had placed Maruping under suspension as a result of “the illegal action, risks and gaps identified by Makwetu happened under his watch”.
Nxesi added that his director-general, Thobile Lamati had also placed the insurance fund’s chief financial officer Vuya Mafata, chief operating officer Judith Kumbi and head of the unit’s supply chain management Maria Ramoshaba on precautionary suspension to allow the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) the opportunity to investigate the irregularities without any interferences.
He added that as a result of Makwetu’s findings and his department’s own internal audits, there were 38 court cases that had been opened.
“There are 38 cases and charges that have been laid against the perpetrators as drawing on the evidence from the Auditor-General’s findings as well as the suspicious findings picked up by the UIF’s own risk management unit,” said Nxesi.
He said some of the cases “were already before courts of law” and some perpetrators were either in jail or out on bail.
“I will await the outcomes of these processes before announcing further action against implicated individuals and entities,” said the minister.
He said the findings came as a result of President Cyril Ramaphosa tasking Makwetu with investigating all Covid-19 related relief funds in August. The Auditor-General had gotten back to his department with appalling findings regarding the R41.6 billion that had been dispensed by the UIF since the announcement of the state of disaster in March.
“We have now received the Auditor-General’s audit report which points to numerous gaps, risks and inadequate controls and verification processes which have resulted in illegal payments among others to recipients of state grants … I take these breaches seriously,” said Nxesi.
He said Makwetu had recommended that in each instance the UIF and the department of employment and labour ought to collaborate with other state organs and law enforcement agencies to investigate every illegal action and risk identified.
“Internally in the department we were already implementing such action. On August 24 the SIU launched a rapid forensic audit into the Auditor-General’s findings and on the UIF with regards to the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme Benefits processes. The department, the fusion centre (a coordination centre pulling together the Financial Intelligence Centre, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Hawks, SIU and the State Security Agency, as well as the SA Revenue Service) and other government agencies have worked together to close the gaps and risks identified,” said Nxesi.
He said his department had also requested National Treasury to deploy “the necessary technical resources to the UIF to urgently implement the recommendations of the Auditor-General and to develop systems and solutions to the identified gaps and risks.“
“In addition, national treasury is assisting the director general in identifying the service provider to conduct a forensic investigation into the overall workings of the UIF. We will also be looking into the working of the compensation fund,” said Nxesi.